Refuse to accept the belief that your professional relevance, career success or financial security turns on the next update on the latest technology. Sometimes it’s good to put the paddle down and just let the canoe glide. Simon Mainwaring
lJuly 2017: 24 of 31 days were spent on public land for one reason or another: cutting wood, leading day hike seminars, kayaking, day-hiking, backpacking. My life is consumed by public lands. National Parks. National Forests. BLM lands. Wildlife Refuges. National Monuments. Wilderness Areas. State lands. Public lands support my addiction to wilderness. These lands sustain my soul; enrich my spirit. They create strong friendship bonds. They provide beauty, nourishment, exercise, and health–both mental and physical.
This year Jane, Diane and I spent nine days on Yellowstone Lake. Jane and I put in at West Thumb/Grant Village early one morning. The air was still, the lake a huge mirror. Paddling was a pleasure, like a hot knife through butter. These calm conditions continued each morning, though afternoons often became windy and sometimes stormy. Early to rise, early on the water, a morning stop for breakfast and tea, and no later than early afternoon, we were setting up our tents. We paddled to Eagle Bay, down and up Flat Mountain Arm with a night at Flat Mountain Bay. Then to the bottom of South Arm, which was mirror flat, the first time in all the years I’ve kayaked Yellowstone Lake that I’ve ever seen it so smooth. Promontory Point with a hike to the top for views, then a day’s paddle into the Southeast Arm, where Diane joined us for the last five days.
Each year we look for certain flowers. Usually the Fringed Gentian paint the Southeast Arm meadows purple. But this year we saw none. I wonder if it was too wet and boggy, or too early, or if the Fringed Gentian has a cycle of blooming. The Buckwheat, however, was going strong along the shore. This seemed to be the strongest bloom of Buckwheat ever. It was everywhere, adding its creamy color and soft texture to trees fallen since the fires.
We hiked what we call ‘The Triangle’ again this year. The first leg of the trail travels from the Southeast Arm to the South Arm to a place called ‘The Monument’. We always search for Lilies—Mariposa and/or Sego. This year was incredible. Lilies by the millions. Double and triple blooms on stems where in the past there would be only a single bloom. These are the most beautiful flowers. Looking for and finding them is a huge highlight of the trip.
A few days after returning home from the kayak trip, I am on the road again heading to the Beartooths to backpack The Beaten Path with Jenny, Rebecca, Bianca and Carrie. I am easily and by far the oldest of this group. They are kind as I struggle up hill the first day. (Uphill has always been my nemesis, while the flats and downhill are beloved friends, allowing me to breathe and pick up speed.)
The first night we camp at Ouzel Lake, then pass the high point of Fossil Lake to find shelter in trees lower on the mountain. We were glad for the lower campsite when it stormed both nights of our lay-over. We spent one day wandering off trail among smooth bedrock and flowing streams. I have fallen in love with smooth bedrock, polished by glaciers and water 10,000 years ago. Today rushing streams caress the rock and make me wish I were a water drop sliding down the rock face.
Two more days along a trail littered with lakes and waterfalls. More waterfalls than I could count, more than my eyes could take in. Rainbow Lake, Lake at the Falls, Rimrock Lake, Elk Lake: all were reason to stop and gaze in awe.
National Forests, national parks, national wilderness areas: The time I have spent on these public lands has sustained my soul, has healed any sadness I may have carried in with me. I have sat and looked, have breathed in and sighed in ecstasy at the peaks above me. I have sat and inhaled the surrounding majestic beauty and wildness. I have muscled and worked and sweat through trails and along waters. I have laughed with friends, have shared meals, forded streams, and talked about our passions long into the evening. I have given thanks more times than I can count for the opportunity to be in the wild, for the weather, for the friendships, for the beauty. Gratefulness permeates my soul.
“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”
― Anita Desai